My eleven-year-old daughter Noelle doesn’t have a phone yet. During a vacation with extended family members, she discovered her aunt owns a flip phone. They sat together for long stretches of time, pressing buttons, and taking tiny photos on the old phone. Since Noelle loves retro, she loved that flip phone!
Phones – whether they are the latest iPhone or relics from the past – seem to have a magnetic pull.
If your daughter often sits with her head buried in her phone, you’ve probably wondered, “Does my daughter use the phone too much?”
It’s a valid question worth asking.
Since boredom seems to be the kryptonite of this generation, we as parents have handed over phones to our children to keep them entertained. It’s convenient for us. Our kids stay quiet, out of the way and out of trouble. As a result, they’ve gotten used to the constant amusement.
Decades ago, children were entertained in much smaller doses. Many kids looked forward to watching 30 minutes of a favorite television show a few times a week. The entire family gathered around a large television set to watch together. Today kids can watch TV and videos throughout the day on demand, not with family members, but alone with a device like a phone.
Of course, screens can be used to connect a family (talking on Skype, watching a movie together). But more often, screens are used in isolation.
No doubt we live in a digital world. The average high school girl texts 4300 times per month! Your daughter is surrounded by other kids using phones. She probably uses a tablet at school and for homework. She’s dialed into social media. How does all this screen time impact your daughter’s relationships, character development, and productivity?
Just think of yourself. How has having a phone in your pocket with constant access to the Internet impacted your life?
Maybe you check your phone several times an hour even when you’re not expecting an important text or email.
When you’re on a date with your spouse, you answer texts even though they are not urgent.
You take a lot of photos at social events but you don’t have very many meaningful conversations.
You are easily distracted.
You tend to give screens more eye contact than family members.
Does any of that sound familiar? So, in addition to asking, “Does my daughter use the phone too much?” you can also ask, “Do I?”
Maybe you talk to your daughter about setting limits such as keeping the phone out of the bedroom at night and restricting phones at the dinner table. But if you tell your daughter one thing, and do the opposite, she is going to have a hard time hearing you. If you check your phone at mealtimes or constantly post photos to social media instead of just enjoying the moment with your family, she will notice. She will watch you and pick up your habits – whether they are good or bad.
Screen time limits work best when taught and caught. For your daughter, you can consider these questions to gauge her screen time health:
Can she read a lengthy, age-appropriate passage with comprehension?
Does she sit still and pay attention in school or church?
Is she able to produce empathy for a friend?
Is she sleeping well each night?
Can she read non-verbal facial expressions from other people?
Does your daughter get one hour of exercise each day?
Does she possess good people skills?
Would your daughter find it easy to live without her phone for a day?
Does she stay calm when she loses phone privileges?
If you are answering no to many of these questions, your daughter may be too attached to her phone. It’s never too late to introduce and enforce good habits that will greatly benefit your daughter as she grows up. Take initiative to limit her data dependency and encourage maturity instead. The phone is here to stay, but it doesn’t have to be the center of your daughter’s world…or yours.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life and Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right. Learn more at ArlenePellicane.com.